Thursday 21 April 2011 at 2:07 pm
The idiomatic expression red herring refers to tactics used to divert attention away from an item of significance. According to Eve Tahmincioglu, Contributing writer for MSNBC, as a job seeker you have about 15 seconds to make an impression with your resume. That may not seem like a long time but consider a drag racer can go from zero to 300 miles an hour and cover a quarter of a mile, in less than 17 seconds. Your resume may not be a race car but it can certainly attract a lot of attention in 15 seconds. You need to make sure those 15 seconds get you across the finish line.
Your resume must stand out by attracting the right attention and not being diverted by red herrings. A herring turns red from a smoking process. Eve T. writes in her column there are 6 resume mistakes to avoid that in my opinion can result in you being smoked out of consideration. Check them out.
1. Resume that is too vague. A resume that is broad gets you smoked. Narrow and specific to the job requirements will get you noticed. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for people that match their job requirements. That may mean you need to tweak your resume accordingly without fabricating experience you do not have. Don't apply for jobs that you do not meet at least 80% of the job requirements. Then make sure your resume speaks specifically to those areas.
2. Ignoring the cyber age. This is simple. Your resume will pass through an electronic filter before, that's right before, it ever will be touched by a human if at all. That human will only see your resume if it passes the electronic screen. That means you must include words in your resume that the electronic screen will be seeking. Normally, these are words that appear in the job posting. Without being obvious, include those key words somewhere appropriate in your resume. In addition, Eve suggests, and this is common sense, name your file with your name not just resume.
3. Every job but the kitchen sink. This is tricky because recruiters are looking for chronological job history. In other words, no gaps between jobs. However, the reality is there often are gaps. Eve suggests you try to avoid "filler jobs" that are not relevant to the job you are seeking. I would add that instead of using month and year for your job history just use years. That may help close some gaps. In any event, a gap won't get you excluded but you need to be able to explain it if you get to the interview process.
4. Not being your own cheerleader. This is underselling your role or accomplishments. You may think that most people are guilty of inflating their accomplishments but what most people don't do enough of is quantifying their accomplishments. Thus, a red herring, because while words are important, quantifiable results are better. Eve suggest that words such as assisted, supported or participated in connote teamwork they should be avoided unless you are very specific with what your role was on the team. I would add your specific, quantifiable accomplishments.
5. Being cookie-cutter. This is one size fits all. Obviously, that is not true but how to avoid tailoring your resume to every job you wish to apply. This goes back to some of the previous comments. Make sure your resume speaks to at least 80% of the job requirements. Make sure you have great profile summary, specific accomplishments, roles that match, etc. In other words, think before you apply. In a world of instant everything, you can respond too quickly and miss an opportunity to differentiate yourself.
6. Forgetting the basics. Spelling, grammar and formatting all the typical things we know but still forget. I have one piece of advice. Do not do your resume alone. Make sure you have someone proof read it for you. I also like one comment Eve includes in her article. Every time you change your formatting (bold, new fonts, etc.) you focus attention on that item. That can be good or bad. Make sure it is not a red herring.
Make the most of your 15 seconds of fame.
Wednesday 20 April 2011 at 3:33 pm
I have been following the union election at the Transportation Security Administration. This election has gotten little national media attention. While the union outrage in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and other States has been all over the media. You would think the largest public union election in the history of the U.S. and perhaps the Government would draw some attention. Apparently not.
The federal government just completed an election process covering 43,000 TSA employees. Over a month long process, TSA workers voted whether they wanted to be represented by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) or the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). TSA employees also had the option to vote for no union at all. The results were just counted and are as follows:
8,095 votes for NTEU
8,356 votes for AFGE
3,111 votes for No Union
Out of 43,000 employees eligible to vote, less than 20,000 voted. However, it does not matter how many are eligible to vote, what matters is how many DO vote. In this case, the majority who voted were in favor of union representation. Therefore, the remaining 23,000 plus workers (who did not vote) will be covered by either NTEU or AFGE after there is a runoff election between the two unions. Once that is completed, All 43,000 TSA employees will be represented by that union.
The nuance is that TSA employees do not have to join the union or pay dues. Judging from the results of the election, the REAL MAJORITY of TSA employees (23,000 plus) have no intention of joining or paying dues to either union.
So who wins and loses in this scenario? The Union wins. The employees lose.
How can this happen? It is simple. Unlike the private sector where the employer asks employees to Vote No, in the public sector, the employer (Government Agency) is silent. They remain neutral position.
Wednesday 20 April 2011 at 1:26 pm
Imagine you landed your dream job. After months of hard work and countless interviews and background checks, you emerged as the successful candidate. You feel great. The Board of Directors offered you the position and you are anxious to start. You understand the first 90 to 100 days are the most critical so you plan to hit the ground running hard. Because the selection process was lengthy and intense, you have a firm grasp on the challenges facing you. At least you think you do.
You are greeted with the pomp and circumstance appropriate for a new CEO and you assemble your management team. The first order of business is that several of your division's are about to go under. You have two choices, let them fail or give them the additional money they need to survive. You decide to give them additional resources and hope you were not throwing good money after bad. The Board of Directors nod their heads in approval.
Your team informs you that one area of the organization must be reorganized and restructured for the future. Other CEO's have tried and failed but you offer new hope and determination. You are told it is for the good of the company long term but others in the organization disagree. The Board of Directors are split on what you should do. However, the Chairman of the Board is in favor and encourages you to take it on. You try to reach consensus but when that fails through sheer will you push the changes through. The Chairman of the Board nods his head in approval while other members shake their heads.
You are awakened at home to learn that you lost a major plant overnight due to gas explosion. Fortunately, a few employees were at work or the loss of life would have been more tragic. However, suddenly federal investigators and the media are looking into the cause of this disaster to determine if the company might be criminally liable. You hire the best public relations firm to represent you but this nightmare will not be over any time soon.
You need some good news but every day seems to bring a new crisis. Shareholders are starting to rumble. The Board of Directors is becoming more divided and your employees are starting to leave. This was your dream job.
No one said it would be this difficult. But even if they had that would not have stopped you from taking the job. You inherited a mess and blaming your predecessor is getting old. Nevertheless, you feel you have accomplished a lot. You made changes no one thought possible. You are confident things will turn around if you just have more time. It's then reality hits you. The average longevity for a CEO is about four years.
Tuesday 19 April 2011 at 2:22 pm
I was skeptical when I read the headline "5 traits that make a great CEO" on SmartBrief on Leadership. But, it piqued my curiosity so I clicked on the headline and it took me to an article by Adam Bryant, business writer for the NY Times. I felt better when I read the actual title of the article Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.'s. The article was adapted from Bryant's book entitled The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed.
I quickly scanned the article to discover the 5 traits/X factors as Bryant describes them that determines who gets the corner office. The word trait gave me bad vibes because although the word itself means distinguishing quality or characteristic it also typically belongs to one person. In addition, the words "great CEO" were problematic. How is it possible that these 5 distinguishing characteristics are the sum total of a great CEO. Anyway, I reviewed the 5 traits, I mean X factors, to see how they compared to my own personal experience. You see I was fortunate to get the corner office, in fact, a few.
I won't go into detail about each factor because they are important for you to read on your own. However, I will tell you what they are.
A simple mind-set and
I agree with Bryant that these factors are relevant. However, I don't know if one person can be proficient in all five. That does not matter. What matters is can you develop these qualities and apply them to your leadership style?
Bryant says the traits/X factors are not genetic so that means you can develop them. He believes they can be developed through attitude, habit, and discipline -- all factors within your control. Obviously, you have to understand what it means to have passionate curiosity, etc., and the best way to do that is through the stories and insights of the people who have it.
The best leaders learn from the successes and failures of other leaders. So, I downloaded Bryant's book on Kindle to learn about the experiences of the executives he interviewed and to see what I can apply to my leadership style.
Monday 18 April 2011 at 6:01 pm
Experts on the game of checkers will tell you that to win at checkers you need a plan and forethought. Once you determine your strategy, you then have to execute it through a series of moves. Checkers is a great metaphor to demonstrate the difference between strategy and tactics.
The goal of the game of checkers is to collect all your opponent's pieces. If you have ever played checkers you have most likely used three of the more common strategies. One, moving your pieces to a spot near your opponent without being captured. Two, trying to block your opponent's moves and three, sometimes sacrificing one of your pieces in order to capture two or three of their opponent's pieces. Simple strategies, however, the difficulty is in trying to execute the strategies when they are the same as your opponents. Obviously, whoever gets to the spot first has an advantage but that can be mitigated by knowing which spots are the most advantageous. In checkers, it's the middle of the board and the corners.
Think of strategy as the who, what, and where, and tactics, as the when and how.
Most leaders are great tacticians. It's coming up with the plan that is the problem. However, that is not as hard as it seems. You just have to look at things from a different perspective.
Let me give you a business example. The strategy of Domino's pizza is to deliver a quality pizza in less than 30 minutes from the time it is ordered. Notice the emphasis on a quality pizza. May not seem like much of a strategy but they are the number 1 pizza delivery company in the U.S. Why, simple, they execute their strategy better than their competitors.
The Who of their strategy - Someone who wants a pizza fast.
The What of their strategy - A pizza that tastes good.
The Where of their strategy - A store within a 1-2 mile radius of their customer.
The When of their tactics - Within 30 minutes of placing the order.
The How of their tactics - A pizza with quality ingredients that tastes good
Clearly, what drives Domino's and any organization is their strategy. However, success comes in being able to execute the strategy. Domino's customers can find a better tasting pizza. They can also find one that costs less. But, can they find a good tasting pizza, at a reasonable price, and have it delivered when they want it from anyone other than Domino's.
Friday 08 April 2011 at 5:13 pm
I don't know about you but I enjoy a good burger and fries. Before we moved to California, I was introduced to In-N-Out burger and fries. I became an instant fan. There was nothing like it back east. In-N-Out has been part of the California culture for over 62 years. All they do is burgers and fries.
In-N-Out has succeeded doing just one thing while other food chains have added to their menu. In-N-Out is privately owned and they have approximately 250 stores in California and a few stores in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and three in Texas.
When friends of ours visited a few years ago, we took them to In-N-Out. They loved it and when they went back home to Virginia they began a quest to find something similar. When we visited them, they took us to Five Guys for a burger and fries. Five Guys has been in business for 25 years and they are now franchised. They are similar to In-N-Out. However, in addition to burgers, they have hot dogs and grilled cheese. We loved it and wished they were in California.
We got our wish a couple months ago when they opened a store within walking distance of our home. I know you want to know. Are they better than In-N-Out?
That is difficult to answer because while each is similar they are very different. Both have fresh ground beef and hand cut fries. Five Guys has customized toppings in fact, there are 250,000 ways to order a burger. In-N-Out has fewer choices but they have a secret menu variations with code names like X by Y and Flying Dutchman and you can have your burger wrapped in lettuce (no bun) a very California thing. Five Guys uses peanut oil so if you are allergic Five Guys is not for you. The fries at In-N-Out are cooked in 100% vegetable oil and you can have them cooked well done (crispy) which is the way I like them. If you want to be decadent, order the fries animal style. In-N-Out has slightly fewer calories then Five Guys. Five Guys costs a little more but not significantly.
So, is Five Guys better than In-N-Out or vice versa? The good news is I don't have to answer that because I get to choose either one. The bad news is unless you live in California you don't get to choose.
Monday 04 April 2011 at 12:41 pm
Whether an organization has a formal or informal succession planning process, there are two basic recruiting strategies to filling a critical CEO role. The two strategies are to promote an internal candidate or hire an external candidate. In rare instances, an organization may restructure or eliminate the position. The question every organization then must determine is which strategy, internal or external, is the right strategy for them.
Google decided to replace CEO Eric Schmidt with an internal candidate co-founder Larry Page. Eric Schmidt was hired from the outside shortly after the birth of Google when the cofounders were struggling to make it. They did not have a revenue model and lacked the business and leadership skills to grow a company.
That is true for many entrepreneurs however, Larry Page and Sergey Brin recognized it and hired someone with the strengths they lacked. Schmidt helped Google develop into the world's most influential internet company. Page and Brin were able to play to their strengths and everyone was happy at least for 8 to 10 years.
Now 10 years and 24,000 employees later the cofounders find themselves in corporate adolescence. They are no longer a startup and not quite an institution. In fact, I am not sure they want to become an institution. Google grew faster and bigger than the other internet kids but now the other kids (like Facebook) are gaining influence. This is an awkward time for Google. As the song says, "we've got trouble. Trouble I say, right here in Mountain View."
So, Larry Page will replace Eric Schmidt as CEO. Page is 10 years older than he was when co-founding the company. According to Steven Levy, author of the upcoming book, In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, Larry Page is the quirkiest person to ever run a $30-billion company. Okay, nothing wrong with quirky but is he a Howard Schultz, a Steve Jobs, or a Bill Gates?
Paul Saffo, a managing director at investment research firm Discern Analytics says, all things being equal, people are likely to follow a founder than a professional executive. Sounds good, however, if there is one thing I have learned about leadership, it is that all things are never equal.